When Ryan Moore went to tap-in a 12-inch putt on the 11th green, he noticed the ball moved ever so slightly due to what was presumed as gravity or another outside force, but not because he had caused it. He had set his putter down on the ground, addressed the ball and taken his back stroke to where the putter face was about ten-inches behind the ball.
“(Friday) I got a penalty stroke for absolutely no reason, so that was unfortunate in the middle of the round,” said Moore, who posted a two-under 70 in the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
Moore, who is still in contention with a 36-hole total of nine-under, was penalized for what happened on the 11th green. Unfortunately, he, along with most players and caddies, thought he was in the clear due to the change made to rule 18-2b — dubbed “the Webb Simpson rule” after he received a stroke penalty when a gust of wind caused his ball to move at last year’s Zurich Classic, probably costing him the tournament — which people believed was supposed to absolve a player whose ball was moved by an outside agency.
Moore assumed the rule had been amended to what everyone expected it to be. As we found out, it’s basically the same rule, just different wording.
“I went to address my little 12‑inch tap‑in and set into it and set my putter down behind it, took my stroke back and the ball just settled a little bit,” said Moore after his round. “The ball moved, and not because of me setting into it. My putter face was about ten inches away from it. But because I had addressed the ball, it somehow was a penalty on me.
“I thought that was the whole point of the rule change after Webb Simpson’s incident last year I thought was to alleviate that because I certainly did not make the ball move, and I thought that was the whole point of the rule change. It’s unfortunate that they somehow changed the rules without really changing it. I don’t know how they did that.
“At the end of the day, it’s a little frustrating, ending up one shot worse than I really shot. But I’m still really happy with how I’m playing and looking forward to the weekend.”
PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul made the decision and explained the unfortunate incident.
“(Ryan) had addressed his ball and then thereafter the ball moved, so under Rule 18‑2b, if you address the ball and the ball moves, you’re deemed to have forced it to move,” said Rintoul. “The new exception to the rule that’s new this year that’s got everybody hung up is the exception means ‑‑ refers to if a wind or an outside agency like a bee or a fly on the green had caused his ball to move, we can get him out if he’s virtually certain that he didn’t cause it, it was the wind or the beetle or the fly.
“But in this case we’ve got no wind, we’ve got nothing else down there, and the decision specifically refers to gravity. If a ball moves because of gravity, that’s just part of the game, just settled.”
That’s absurdly subjective and ambiguous. Sure, it wasn’t windy when Ryan’s ball moved, but what if conditions had, in fact, been slightly gusty, who is to say that the wind actually caused the ball to change position? It’s open for interpretation and the player is penalized based on what he/she thinks happened and what the official determines based on the evidence presented. The rules are written like everything is black and white when it usually is not, bringing doubt into play.
This point was brought to my attention by another player: The rules were written at a time when greens ran at anywhere from 6-10 stimp throughout the last half century. Now that weekly PGA Tour greens are around 12 — or as high as 14 — it is much more likely that a ball will move “without reason.” Many other rules have been updated due to technology. How is lawn mower technology different?
Here’s some food for thought…
Meanwhile Tiger’s ball disappears and witnesses give sketchy testimony that causes the rules official to deem it stolen and he receives a free drop. Obviously, that situation is entirely different than (and separate from) Moore’s, but it makes you wonder about the fairness and consistency of rulings depending on outside conditions or pressures, along with the stature of the player.
Just throwing it out there.
Until yesterday I always dismissed accounts from other players, caddies, friends and colleagues about past “favorable” rulings Tiger supposedly had received when there was dubious evidence (that no other player would have gotten, except perhaps Phil Mickelson), and/or tales that suspected and accused fans of kicking his ball back in-bounds and so on and so forth. I’d say, “No way, there are too many people around to let that happen!” Maybe that was naive.
After I witnessed the whole curious case of Tiger lost/stolen ball, doubt — even if it’s in the slightest, which is all you need — has now crept into my mind.